Posts Tagged ‘respite from knighthood’

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 8 April to Saturday 14 April 1257

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

King Henry III celebrated Sunday 8 April, Easter Sunday, at Westminster amidst feasting, religious ceremony and almsgiving.  The week before, on Maundy Thursday, he had distributed 272 pairs of shoes to the poor, and quite probably had washed their feet. Later accounts show that a great silver bowl was kept in the wardrobe for such a  ceremony.  Perhaps some of those benefitting from these royally administered ablutions were lepers. At any rate,  the king of France, Louis IX, commended Henry for washing the feet of lepers and kissing them. 

After the Easter ceremony, the king’s brother, Richard of Cornwall, left London for Yarmouth, where he was to take ship for Germany and his royal coronation. The archbishop of Cologne took a different route  and sailed home in a great galley he had brought up the Thames. One can imagine it moored opposite the Tower, where doubtless it impressed the Londoners. Richard had given the archbishop  500 marks and a mitre decorated with precious stones.  The archbishop gracefully declared (according to Matthew Paris) ‘he has mitred me, I will crown him’,  referring to his role in the German coronation.

This week eight individuals bought writs to initiate or further common law legal actions. There were five fines of gold, two for respite of knighthood.  This was a respectable level of business but it was not going to transform the king’s financial position and enable him to pursue  his Sicilian schemes. He had also just failed to secure taxation from parliament for the same purpose. This may be part of the background to this week’s ambitious scheme to put the king’s finances on an entirely new footing. On Monday, 9 April, the king ‘provided and ordained’ that henceforth the expenses of the king’s household were to be paid for ‘day by day’. To that end, the exchequer was to set aside 20,000 marks (£13,333) each year, 10,000 marks coming from the first monies reaching it at Easter, and 10,000 marks from the first monies at Michaelmas. The king issued this ordinance in the presence of Edward, his son and heir, his half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence,  the queen’s uncle, Peter of Savoy, and the ministers John Mansel and Robert Walerand. The presence here of the king’s foreign relatives, and the absence of a single English magnate, confirms the isolation of the king which we saw at the parliament, an isolation enhanced by the departure for Germany of the long suffering and supportive, Richard of Cornwall. On the other hand,  the ordinance does show the foreign relatives involved in  a sensible attempt at  financial reform, which probably  responded to complaints made about the king’s government at the parliament. The first aim was to see that the king paid for his food, drink, clothes and everything else promptly instead of  running up debts to merchants, tradesmen and others.  The second aim, at least by implication, was that the wardrobe, the chief spending department travelling with the king, was essentially to be funded by the exchequer. Although not stated explicitly, it was  the wardrobe which was to receive the 20,000 marks and since this was the rough equivalent of its total annual expenditure at this time (clearly the king had been well informed on that), it would  no longer need in a disorderly way to seek revenue from other sources. The implication was that the bulk of the king’s revenue could be paid into the exchequer instead of being siphoned off to the wardrobe. This was precisely what the reformers demanded and attempted to achieve after the revolution of 1258.

In all this, the king had not forgotten Westminster abbey, for another £1000 was to be reserved every year for the work on its fabric. Would the scheme work? It clearly depended on the revenue reaching the exchequer and the king refraining from either diverting it before it got there, or ordering the exchequer to spend it on other things before the 20,000 marks had been raised.  To that end, the king strictly ordered the exchequer to make no payments until the money had been set aside, even though commanded to do so by his writs and his own verbal orders! If they disobeyed, they would be liable to pay back the money from their own goods. This type of attempt to get  officials to act as a barrier against his own weakness was characteristic of Henry III, and does not show him in a very kingly light.  Having said that, is it much different from the way modern politicians have sought to guard against their own weakness by making the Bank of England independent in the setting of interest rates? Would Henry’s scheme work this time? Read future blogs to find out!

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 18 March to Saturday 24 March 1257

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Henry III’s great parliament opened on or soon after 18 March. On 18th March itself  the witnesses to a royal charter were merely the king’s Poitevin half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence, and an assortment of household officials. But in the ensuing days, charters were witnessed  by Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester, Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, Peter of Savoy, the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops of Worcester and Norwich.  The stated purpose of the parliament was to say good bye to Richard of Cornwall who was about to leave England for his coronation as king of Germany. On 27 March Henry sent an order about the equipping of 100 ships gathering at Yarmouth for the voyage.  No more, however,  is heard of Henry’s enthusiastic but impractical  idea of actually accompanying his brother.  The second purpose of the parliament was to consider Henry’s appeals for funds to support his Sicilian project, the project that is to put Edmund his second son on the throne of Sicily.  To stir the emotions,  Henry  (according to Matthew Paris) paraded the twelve year old Edmund in Sicilian robes before the assembly  and begged it not to let him down.

Henry could take comfort from the fact that the parliament brought a large increase in fine roll business. Whereas in the previous week there had been only three items of business, in this week there were seventeen. These included thirteen fines for writs to initiate or further common law legal actions, and four fines of gold. Two of the latter were for respite of knighthood, one for exemption from jury service, and one, worth two mark of gold or twenty marks of silver, from the Kentish knight, Nicholas of Lenham, for a charters conceding him a market and fair, and a free warren. As the charters, issued on 18 March show the free warren (essentially a private hunting park) was to be for all of Nicholas’ s manors which included Lenham and Lamberhurst in Kent and Redenhall in Norfolk.  The market and fair were to be at Hunton in Kent. The establishment was not, however, very successful.  An inquiry of 1312 said the market had never been held and the fair was only worth 3d a year. See the Gazetteer of Markets and Fairs, edited by Samantha Letters. Nicholas’s fine is the twentieth entry from bottom the bottom of this membrane (click here). It would be interesting to know whether Nicholas of Lenham  attended the parliament and saw Edmund in his Sicilian robes. Would such tactics work?  Read next week’s blog to find out.

For this parliament, see J.R. Maddicott, The Origins of the English Parliament 924-1327, pp.471-2.

Nicholas of Lenham, it may be noted, fought against the king at the battle of Lewes.

Henry III’s Fine Rolls Blog Sunday 15 January to Saturday 21 January 1257

Friday, January 20th, 2012

We saw in the last blog the major items on Henry III’s political agenda in 1257: the Sicilian affair, the peace with France, and the rising power of Llywelyn ap Gruffud in Wales.  All of these posed problems, but  Henry had  one reason to look forward with confidence. The balance of power in Europe was about to be transformed in his favour, or so he might hope. Just after a Christmas 1256, in ceremony before Henry and his council in St Stephen’s chapel in Westminster palace, during a great storm of thunder and lightening,  his brother, Richard of Cornwall, had accepted  election  as king of the Romans. He was now busy preparing his departure for Germany where he would be crowned.

During this week, which Henry spent at Westminster,  there was more good news.  On 18 January the abbot of Westminster and the bishop elect of Salisbury got back to England with news that the pope was prepared to extend the deadline of the Sicilian enterprise.  Under the original agreement  in which the kingdom was conferred on Edmund, his second son, Henry had been obliged to pay the pope £90,000 and send an army to Sicily to conquer the kingdom by Michaelmas 1256, which, of course, was  long gone.  Henry now learnt that the pope had graciously extended the deadline down to the start of June 1257.  There was no chance of Henry actually paying the money and sending an army within that term either, but at least he might be able to show he meant business. That above all meant getting a tax to support the enterprise from parliament.  The planning of a parliament must have now become a subject of earnest discussion between Henry and his advisers.

Meanwhile the fine rolls show that the attempt to build up a gold treasure to pay a Sicilian army was continuing. There were twelve fines of gold in this week, of which eight were for respite of knighthood.  Following on from last week’s discussion of the gold treasure, it might be worth explaining the form of these fines. Let us take as an example that translated as no 358 in the Calendar of Fine Rolls 1257  Its image is six items from the bottom in, with the marginal annotation ‘De fine auri pro respect milicie’. Here the Yorkshire knight, Robert de Etton’ (probably of Etton in the East Riding) is said to give the king half a mark of gold for respite from his  knighthood, which means that he has an exemption  from having to take up the honour.  Although the fine says he ‘gives’ the gold, in fact he  is not paying cash down. Instead as the fine goes on to indicate, he is to pay the gold into the wardrobe at the coming Michaelmas.  The ‘order to the sheriff of Yorkshire’ referred to is an order to the sheriff  to take security for this payment. In fact, as the entry goes on to indicate in a later addition (note the change of ink), Robert  paid the gold to the then keeper of the wardrobe, Peter des Rivaux, on Friday after Ash Wednesday in the regnal year 42, that is on 8 February 1258, so he missed his stipulated term.  Note ‘a’ to the translation adds that ‘This entry is not in the originalia roll’. The originalia roll was the copy of the fine roll sent the exchequer so it knew what monies to collect. The absence of the fine, like all fines of gold,  from the originalia roll thus meant that the exchequer had nothing to do with the collection and audit of the gold treasure, which was entirely a wardrobe affair.  Hence the record that the fine has been paid and that Robert is ‘quit’  is made here on the fine roll not on the exchequer’s pipe roll.  Unfortunately, like most of its kind, the fine does not indicate in what form the gold came.

The fine rolls for this week also reveal another way in which the king was accumulating his gold treasure.  This was from the towns who were offering  gold, or silver to buy gold, in return for charters giving them various privileges. Thus on  21 January the citizens of Northampton offered 100 marks of silver to buy gold for a charter of liberties, while in an undated entry, the men of Guildford offered one and a half marks of gold for a charter which established moved the county court of Surrey  to Guildford. This caused great anger locally since it meant moving the county court from the much more central Leatherhead.

Does anyway know whether these charters survive?  If the Guildford one does, it will clear up a mystery over its date. Although the fine for it appears in this week, and the actual charter is enrolled with others for January and has much the same witnesses, the charter roll calendar says it bears the date 7 September. An image of Guildford castle, much visited by Henry III, appears on the Guildford Borough website.

The witnesses to the Northampton charter, which is dated 18 January although the fine is three days later, show who was at court in this week. The list is  headed by the king’s Poitevin half brothers, Guy de Lusignan and William de Valence. Peter of Savoy, the queen’s uncle, does not feature, although he was at court around this time.  Henry’s generosity  to his foreign relatives is very clear.  On Friday, 20 January,  he confirmed an earlier gift  to Peter of Savoy  which meant  he was pardoned  the £625 he owed  each year for custody of the Vescy lands during the minority of the heir, a very major concession.   On the same day Henry took steps to give Guy de Lusignan 200 marks, and also compensated one of his clerks for giving way to the queen’s request to surrender a wardship. This was  so that it could be given to her daughter the queen of Scotland. The tensions between the Savoyards and the Lusignans in this scramble for patronage were to explode in 1258.